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[Soccer] Korea Needs to Break Greece`s `Otto`s Wall`

Posted December. 15, 2009 09:32,   


Otto Rehhagel, who took over the national Greek soccer team in 2001, revamped the Euro 2004 champion by prompting his players to do their best in the pursuit of passion.

The 71-year-old coach is known as a master of pragmatic soccer. A defender in his playing days, Rehhagel led Werder Bremen and Kaiserslautern of the German Bundesliga to several championships.

Dubbed the Guus Hiddink of Greece, Rehhagel has received honorary Greek citizenship for leading Greece to the Euro 2004 title. He selects his players himself and trains them under strict rules.

While Hiddink focuses on offense, Rehhagel stresses defense followed by counterattack. When he took over Greece, the country was 61st in the FIFA world rankings but is now 12th.

The Greeks were pounded, 5-1, by Finland in his first game as coach. Three years later, however, his team defeated France, the Czech Republic and Portugal in succession at Euro 2004 to win the title.

A key to the coach’s success is a solid defensive wall. The Greek team boasts strong stamina that enables players to run tirelessly and a strong and collective mental spirit with teammates determined not to lose a point.

“Otto’s wall” has shown signs of cracking recently, however.

Rehhagel sensed the need to rebuild his wall and injected young blood into the team. Greece defeated Ukraine with an aggregate score of 1-0 in the World Cup playoff qualifier to secure a berth to South Africa next year. Thus he has rebuilt the team.

○ Members of “Otto’s wall”

Dimitris Salpigidis (Panathikos) is a typical player among “Rehhagel’s Warriors.” He runs ceaselessly in a manner similar to “Oxygen Tank” Park Ji-sung of Korea (Manchester United).

Salpigidis has never played in a foreign league and scored just three goals in 33 A-matches. He is the pillar of the team, however.

Theofanis Gekas (Portsmouth) is Greece’s top striker, scoring 10 goals in as many matches. At age 29, he has gradually evolved and is considered to be at his peak.

Greece’s third weapon is Georgios Karagounis, who commands the midfield and was team captain at Euro 2004. A veteran at age 32, he has played 90 A-matches and is a threat to score with free kicks. He is the centerpiece of Otto’s wall.

Once Greece scores a goal, it sets up a big wall blocking the half line. For Korea to break through this wall, it needs the solid stamina of Park and rapid play of striker Park Chu-young (As Monaco).

To beat Greece, 52nd-ranked Korea needs the same strong spirit of challenge it showed in the 2002 World Cup. Greece is ranked 40 spots higher than Korea in the FIFA world rankings, though Korea has beaten Greece once and drawn once in their two meetings.

A victory over Greece in Group B by Korea is a must if the Taegeuk Warriors want to advance to the second round.